French embassy targeted in terror attack in Burkina Faso

Smoke rises in the Burkina Faso capital after multiple attacks on March 2, 2018

France’s embassy in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, said on Friday it was under attack and urged its citizens to stay where they were.

“Attack under way at the French Embassy and French Institute. Stay hidden where you are,” the embassy said in a statement posted on its Facebook site.

A French official in Paris confirmed that an assault against the embassy was under way, as well as an attack on the Burkina Faso army headquarters.

Earlier, an explosion rocked Burkina Faso’s army headquarters in the capital Ouagadougou on Friday and black smoke could be seen billowing above, a Reuters witness said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the blast.

A witness at the scene told Reuters that masked gunmen with backpacks attacked the army headquarters after the explosion.

A Reuters witness said other smaller explosions came from the headquarters after a first larger blast and that security forces were converging on the scene.

Burkina Faso, like other countries in West Africa, has been targeted sporadically by jihadist groups operating across Africa’s Sahel region.

Suspected jihadists killed at least 18 people in August 2017 during a raid on a restaurant in Ouagadougou and militants have targeted Burkinabe security forces along its remote northern border region with Mali.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for an attack on a restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou in January 2016 in which 30 people were killed.

Five regional countries launched a new taskforce in 2017 to tackle Islamist militants in the zone, to which international donors have committed a half-billion dollars.